Friday, March 6, 2015

Following Jesus Is Easy


We've all heard it: "Following Jesus is hard."

We try our best, yet we always hit a time when we feel ready to give up. We sin too much, we don't know what we're doing, we're not that spiritual—that's what we tell ourselves, and it hurts our walk with Christ because we feel like we can't do it.

The idea of difficult Christianity is flat-out discouraging, and we need to stop thinking it. Once we add on the fact that we live in a sinful body inside a sinful world with sinful temptations bombarding us every day, we are even further discouraged to follow Christ and more encouraged to backslide.

True, we live in a sinful world. True, following Jesus doesn't come naturally. True, we stumble in our walk all the time. But our lives in Christ do not have to be difficult.

Following Jesus is easy. In fact, it's easier than NOT following Jesus. Don't believe me? Well, that's why I wrote this post. Here, I will list a few things that hinder our relationship with Christ and can convince us that following is difficult. I will prove, Biblically, that they are easy to overcome, and that you can have a vibrant life of service to God despite all these hindrances. 


     1) Sin

Sin can really put a damper on your spiritual life. Not only does it blur your relationship with Christ and have the potential to ruin your witness, but it also adds a boat-load of self-doubt when you read passages like John 15:10 or 1 John 2:3. We think that sin is too hard to overcome or too burdensome to follow Jesus properly. However, the Bible tells us something different.


1 Corinthians 10:13 
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Here, God promises us that He will provide escape from our sins and temptations. He knows what we're doing wrong, he knows its effect on our life, and He also knows how's we can overcome it.

Reason #1 for why overcoming sin is easy is that God has promised escape.


John 17:15 
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

In this passage, Jesus is praying for you before He goes to the cross. In other passages, like Romans 8:34, the Bible says that Jesus is still praying for you at the right of hand of the Father. I encourage you to pray for deliverance from sin, but I also want you to know that Jesus is right there, praying for the very same thing.

Reason #2 for why overcoming sin is easy is that Jesus prays for you.


Hebrews 4:15-16 
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Here, the author of Hebrews is speaking about Jesus. He says that the Son of God has been tempted in the same way we have. He knows betrayal, He knows emotion, He knows hormones, He knows desire, He knows exactly what it's like to have the same sinful body, world, and temptations that we do.

Reason #3 for why overcoming sin is easy is that Jesus knows what it's like, and He knows what to do.

Now, let's combine all these reasons into one big, giant reason: God will do all the work, and you just gotta let Him (Galatians 5:16). Falling into sin can get complicated, but escaping it is as easy as calling out to God!



     2) Ignorance

There are plenty of times when we feel like we're walking blind. We don't know where we're going, we don't know the details, or we don't know how to do what God is calling us to do. We feel like we need time to figure things out and prepare before we can do any real, effective ministry; but that takes a lifetime, and God is demanding that we act now. Here are some reasons why worshiping through ministry and obedience is easy, regardless of how much we (don't) know.


Jeremiah 29:11-14 
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

If you're like the average American Christian, you already know the first verse very well. But, alas, there is more. Right after God assures the exiles that He knows what's going to happen and promises them that it's going to be great, He tells them to simply call upon Him and seek Him.

Reason #1 for why blindly following God is easy is that all we need to do is call upon God to make our paths straight.


1 Corinthians 2:1-5 
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 

Here, we have Paul, one of the greatest missionaries this world has ever seen, confess to the church at Corinth that he had little clue what he was doing when he came to them. All he knew was "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

Reason #2 for why blindly following God is easy is that all we need to know is the Gospel; that Jesus Christ died so that we might be saved.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you."

This promise directly from God is something that we must constantly take to heart when we do things we don't know about or take steps toward something that's still in the dark.

Reason #3 for why blindly following God is easy is that God has promised to be by our side and on our side always. 

Over all, we can summarize these three reasons into one thing: God will do all the work, and you just gotta let Him (Matthew 7:8). Waiting to get all the answers and know-how will leave us stagnate for far too long and that makes things difficult; but moving forward, step-by-step, with God is as easy as being in a relationship with Him.


     3) Incompetence

Trust me, I know all about those guys who have done truck-loads for the Kingdom of God. People like William Carey, Lottie Moon, Billy Graham, and Lecrae just baffle me with their faith and the impact it's made. Perhaps your pastor or teacher or parent seem to outmatch your faith too, and you aspire to be like them on a regular basis. Unfortunately "good Christian people" like these can be more intimidating than inspiring. It is normal to think that there's no way we could ever meet up to par with people like that. Well, we can, and it's easy. 

1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Every Christian is different. Some are good at evangelism, others are good at knowledge, others are good at giving, and others are good at serving. Some people are popular, others are not. Some people impact a lot of people, others may only impact a few. However, the one thing every Christian has in common with each other is that they all have the same Spirit living inside of them and working through them.

Reason #1 for why living extraordinary lives is easy is that we all have God the Holy Spirit in us. 

Proverbs 3:12
For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

This verse tells us that God will discipline us and push us up because he loves us, just as a father should to his son. The passage is simple, but it packs a lot with it. If God wants us to do His will, He will personally see to it that we succeed. Those Christians you look up to would have never got where they were if it wasn't for God's work in their lives.

Reason #2 for why living extraordinary lives is easy is that God is our Father and our Coach. 

Romans 7:21-25
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Here's another Christian superstar, Paul the Apostle. He wrote half the New Testament, spread Christianity across borders, and planted dozens of churches. But here, he opens up about a very important truth: there's still evil in us. Those Christians that we look up to will agree that there is no one on this earth who is completely good. So, our desire to be a good Christian is unrealistic. Instead, we should strive to simply be a better Christian. Either way, this passage says that even though we are trapped in sin, Jesus has set us free.

Reason #3 for why living extraordinary lives is easy is that it's normal to be a bad Christian, but we still have a good Savior.

Once again, all these reasons can merge into one, singular mantra. God will do the work, and you just gotta let Him (2 Peter 1:2-11). Proverbs 4:18 says something beautiful about this: "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day." Regardless of where you are in your walk, you, me, and all the other Christians will continue to grow and grow until Jesus calls us home, free from sin. 


     The hard part.

Wow. This sounds all easy and stuff, but why does it still seem so hard? God has our way to escape, our way to knowledge, our way to being the best Christian ever… but we still fail. To remedy this, I have some pivotal, completely important, all-inclusive, life-shattering advice for you that you need to know, remember, and never let go of:

Give up.

It seems counter-intuitive and certainly doesn't fit in with what the world says, but we seriously need to let go and let God take care of it. When Christians say that they feel like they're going nowhere and just want to stop trying to do good in their faith, I rejoice. That's when God steps into our lives and changes us for the better. We need to stop trusting in ourselves, and start trusting in the God who loves us and wants to use us for His beautiful glory. 

If you haven't noticed, there's a trend. God will do the work, and you just gotta let Him. This is what it means to give up. It doesn't mean to throw your Christianity away, it means throwing yourself away and allowing God to work through you without anything tying you down. This is a concept that the Apostle Paul refers to as "dying daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31. See also, Galatians 2:20, Luke 9:23, and Mark 8:35)

Because we're surrounded by all this sin, we're convinced that life is about ourselves and/or other people. But as a Christian, life is all about God, what He does, who He is, and what He will do through us if we simply tell Him, "I give up."

That's what is "so hard" about doing what is so easy: carrying our cross, dying daily, and giving up. We don't want to do that because it seems wimpy, or unappealing, or unattractive. But, it's necessary to follow Jesus. And of course, it's really easy, too!

So that's all for now. My challenge for you: give up today. Give up tomorrow. Find a way to remind yourself everyday to give up. God is waiting to do a remarkable work in you, if only you'd let Him.

Following Jesus is easy.

In Christ,
Paul.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Excuses, Excuses...

Here's my condensed version of excuses to why this is my first blog post in the past three weeks:

1) I took some time off for my birthday. Wednesday, September 10th, I was supposed to, by obligation, post something new. However, that day was my 17th birthday, so I took the day off.

2) I had a few things on my mind. This whole "Hey, you're a senior in high school, so you gotta make all these life decisions" type thing. So, instead of writing here, I was college surfing and pros/cons list writing. I spent most of my free time listening to unsafe amounts of Chill Out music to relieve the obscene amount of involved
stress and whatnot.

3) We moved! My family and I have been living in a camper for about two months, waiting for our newly purchased home to be closed and moved out of. Saturday (the 20th), all that happened. So, I've been working, getting ready for the move, moving in general, and unpacking after the move. So, life's been plenty busy.

Fear not, for I bring you new posts and good tidings for all. After reading through some Mark and reading through some Luke, I have a few post topics on the top of my head that I'd like to share; so stay tuned, my friends and faithful followers!

Until Saturday...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Monumental

Originally posted November 8, 2011. Slightly revised.

I've been to Washington D.C. several times. My sister loves history and art and pretty things so we would always go there for her birthday. It's a beautiful place. I love it up there.
   
If you know anything about the USA's capital it's that it's full of monuments. Some for past presidents and some others for great men of America. But these monuments are HUGE. My personal favorite is the Washington Memorial. This monument is the tallest structure in D.C.—in fact, it is illegal to construct anything higher than it in the city. Just looking at it makes you feel so small and makes the man that it represents looks so important. I mean, George Washington was more than our first President, he was a Founding Father and a model American for us to follow for the rest of history. 

My question is, Washington is great, but God is greater. Right? However, why is it that Washington got a towering monument, but God didn't?

Where is God's monument?

I'm gonna let my imagination run wild with this one. If God ever had a monument, it would be the epitome of "gigantic". Thousands of feet tall. Thousands of miles wide. Millions and millions of tons. With golden walls covered in diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious jewels. Overflowing with water, towers of smoke, and the whole Bible in its original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek written in letters hundreds of feet high wrapped completely around it. It could be seen from the moon as a golden dot as large as a period (.) and as shiny as a lightning bug. That would definitely be a memorial for the King! 
   
Or maybe we already have one. Maybe it's something like the canyons, or the oceans, or the mountain ranges... perhaps the star constellations and supernovae. Maybe God's made His own monument and put it in nature.
   
Paul (the apostle, not me) mentions God's memorial twice* in his first letter to the Corinthians, both of them begin with the phrase, "Do you not know...". So apparently it is very obvious where His memorial is. But people (including us) look for something in the smallest nooks and crannies, under every sheet of paper, and behind every spec of dust to find the answer to our question when really, most of the time, it is right under our noses, in the most obvious place there is. It's the same way with God's monument. So here is what Paul says:

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
(1 Corinthians 3:16)

You are the monument. You remind others of God. You are the high tower that people look at to notice the His greatness. No, you aren't made of gold and precious stones, but you are God's choice in being His monument to stand out and tell everyone who He is and what He's done.
   
God is monumental and you are His monument. A monument to represent the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is why He made you: to "show off" Jesus. If that is not how you live, then you aren't living for what you were put here for. 
   
And get this, if you're a monument, you aren't the only one. There are millions of them all over the place. Some are overseas. Some are at your church. Some in your neighborhood. Every true Christian is a monument for Gods glory! Isn't that cool?

Christian, you were made to be His monument. Non-Christian, you were made to be His monument. And he's worth it. He didn't found a country, but He found the lost. He created You for that purpose, loved you so much, and gave you His Son to take the punishment for your sin.

If we aren't showing the world the saving power of Jesus Christ, then what are we showing? We're all a monument for something. Be a monument for someone who is truly worthy of it.

*1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19